Anne Speckhard
Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Georgetown University Medical School and author of Talking to Terrorists: Understanding the Psycho-Social Motivations of Militant Jihadi Terrorists, Mass Hostage Takers, Suicide Bombers & “Martyrs” In the last decade she interviewed over four hundred terrorists, suicide bombers, terrorist supporters, family members, close associates and hostages investigating what puts individuals on the terrorist trajectory and what might also take them back off it. She also conducted interviews with the hostages of Beslan and Nord Ost about the Chechen mass hostage takers and conducted psychological autopsies (with a Chechen colleague) on over half of the 112 Chechen suicide bombers trying to learn what motivated them to explode themselves. Dr. Speckhard has been working in the field of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) since the 1980’s and has extensive experience working in Europe, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. She has provided expert consultation to European and Middle Eastern governments as well as to NATO, OSCE and the U.S. Department of Defense regarding programs for prevention and rehabilitation of individuals committed to political violence and militant jihad. In 2006-2007 she worked with the U.S. Department of Defense to design and pilot test the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq.

Entries by Anne Speckhard

Terrorism as the Psychiatric First Aid and 'Quick Fix' for Mental Illness

(1) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 3:32 PM

A sixteen-hour siege in Sydney, Australia ended today with the gunman and two hostages killed, three others seriously injured. The suspect identified by New South Wales police as Man Haron Monis is a fifty-year old self-proclaimed cleric who came to Australia on asylum from Iran in 1996 and was currently...

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Islamic State, Sex Jihad and Sexual Slavery

(2) Comments | Posted December 12, 2014 | 7:00 PM


Stories of Jihad al nikah or "sex jihad" have surfaced repeatedly since the uprising and conflicts in Syria. These stories include accusations of young women being recruited to rebel groups including, al Nusra and now Islamic State, for servicing the fighters...

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The Canadian Parliament Attacks, ISIS, and Echoes of the Toronto 18

(1) Comments | Posted October 28, 2014 | 1:58 PM


For many, the shooting attacks in the Canadian parliament this past week are a horrific surprise. Canada is a viewed by most as a very open, tolerant and friendly society, having welcomed many waves of immigrants from all over the world. However there...

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The ISIS Call for Women to Join Their Jihad: Love and Romance as Motivators

(0) Comments | Posted September 3, 2014 | 9:33 PM


"Love" and romance are often underestimated motivators for joining the militant jihad as recently witnessed in the case of Denver teen, Shannon Conley who was arrested April 8, 2014 while trying to board a flight in Denver with the goal of...

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Al Baghdadi, ISIS, Camp Bucca and the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq--Could we have Changed the Outcomes?

(0) Comments | Posted September 2, 2014 | 1:23 AM


In the summer of 2007 I was given the task of designing the psychological and Islamic challenge portions of a "deradicalization" program for the U.S. military that came to be known as the Detainee Rehabilitation Program. This program was to be applied to...

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Foreign Fighters, the Home Security Threat & ISIS

(0) Comments | Posted August 27, 2014 | 1:58 PM

The million dollar question over the past couple of years has been will foreign fighters--two to three thousand estimated from Europe, and lesser numbers from Canada and the United States--who have gone to fight Assad in Syria become a security threat when...

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End Times Brewing: An Apocalyptic View on al-Baghdadi's Declaration of a Caliphate in Iraq and the Flow of Foreign Fighters Coming from the West

(3) Comments | Posted June 29, 2014 | 3:29 PM


Al-Baghdadi and his group of extremists--ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham)--have declared the establishment of a Caliphate, renaming their organization the Islamic State. They did this on the first day of Ramadan, a holy and symbolic day for Muslims. Already having...

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Miranda Rights, "Public Safety" and the Police State

(0) Comments | Posted May 12, 2014 | 10:47 AM

Attorneys in the Boston bombing case are jockeying with the judge over whether or not testimony garnered from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev during thirty-six hours of FBI questioning while he lay in a hospital bed recovering from a gunshot wound--his jaw wired shut and...

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Bring Back Our Girls - Nigeria's Struggle With Boko Haram

(0) Comments | Posted May 8, 2014 | 12:48 AM

"Bring back our girls" is the plea of hundreds of bereaved Nigerian parents terrified that their daughters--two hundred sixty-six schoolgirls kidnapped by the Boko Haram terrorist organization and believed to be held in the twenty-three thousand wild acres of the Sambisa Forest of northern Nigeria will...

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Waterboarding, Sarah Palin and the West's Image Abroad as the 'Great Satan'

(67) Comments | Posted April 30, 2014 | 7:44 PM

"Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists," Sarah Palin told an audience at the National Rifle Association's Stand and Fight rally last weekend. She would reinstitute the practice, she told listeners, calling it a valuable technique.

What Sarah Palin perhaps doesn't know is that when al Qaeda was...

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Honoring Civilian Service in Danger Zones

(0) Comments | Posted April 25, 2014 | 1:01 AM

This week, Dr. Jerry Umanos, a Chicago pediatrician who moved to Afghanistan to treat children and train Afghan physicians was gunned down at a Kabul hospital -- killed by an Afghan police guard. While we have become sickeningly accustomed to hearing about "green on blue" attacks on our...

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Childhood Cancer and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

(2) Comments | Posted April 22, 2014 | 7:28 PM

"Your child has cancer." These are words no parent ever wants to hear.

"You have cancer," is often a meaningless sentence to a child, but the fear and horror the child sees in his parents' faces and hears in their voices is unmistakable.

For parent and child, a...

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The Caucasus Emirate and its Capacity to use Women Terrorists and other Methods to Attack the 2014 Winter Olympics

(0) Comments | Posted January 23, 2014 | 1:56 AM

Security forces in Russia are frantically searching for four women thought to be suicide terrorists hiding out in the run up to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Ruzanna Ibragimova--one of the four--is believed to have already penetrated the "iron ring" of Putin's security perimeter drawn in the radius around Sochi--waiting...

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Beauty Pageants and High School Queens: Is it Psychologically Good for Us?

(3) Comments | Posted September 23, 2013 | 4:04 PM

Beauty pageants have dominated the news this past week. First the French Senate banned them with for girls under 16, threatening a two-year prison sentence and stiff fines of thirty thousand Euros for organizers -- or parents -- who enter their children into illegally organized contests. The French...

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'Sex Jihad' - A New Role for Extremist Women in Militant Jihadi Groups?

(3) Comments | Posted September 23, 2013 | 1:44 AM

When Ayman Zawahiri's wife, the al Qaeda successor to Osama bin Ladin, was asked in 2009 about the permissible roles of women in waging jihad she wrote a letter to her "Muslim sisters" encouraging them to leave the fighting to the men and to wage jihad through giving money, Internet...

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Mental Health Issues and the Security Clearance Process - Questions Raised After the U.S. Navy Yard Active Shooter

(0) Comments | Posted September 19, 2013 | 2:17 PM

The recent Navy Yard shooting in which active shooter Aaron Alexis entered the Washington, D.C. Navy facility with a gun that he used to kill twelve and injure many more--before being shot and killed himself, raises some important national security issues regarding the clearance process and granting of access to...

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The Syrian Red Line and How Images Change Everything

(1) Comments | Posted September 15, 2013 | 5:13 PM

Last week I wrote (with Raj Persaud) about the deep psychological effects of chemical weapons and invisible stressors upon civilian populations--making the case that their use must be considered outside the red lines of acceptable combat practices because of the pervasive psychological horror they cause.

Today I'd...

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Does the Psychology of Chemical Weapons Explain the Need for a Red Line?

(21) Comments | Posted September 10, 2013 | 8:00 PM

Estimates of the recent number of deaths in the Syrian conflict range from 83,000 to over 110,000, yet it's Bashir Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons to attack the resistance which has galvanized the world.

Why is there particular revulsion over such attacks versus conventional warfare? Even if it's proved...

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Chelsea Manning's Transgender Dilemma in the US Military - A Secret That Needed to Be Told?

(64) Comments | Posted August 23, 2013 | 8:00 PM

Chelsea Manning, was recently given a thirty-five prison sentence for leaking secret documents that she claimed were distributed in order to expose wrongdoing and prompt debate of government policies among the American public. It appears now that Manning had already been living for years under another military imposed prison sentence...

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We Served Too: Remembering Civilian Sacrifices Made on Behalf of Country and Honoring Those Who Serve Alongside the Military in Conflict Zones

(0) Comments | Posted May 28, 2013 | 2:18 PM

This Memorial Day all Americans send a heartfelt salute to all those warriors who fought and died so gallantly in recent and far off wars in behalf of our freedoms and safety. On behalf of those who died, we can never thank them or their families enough for the ultimate...

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